by Marion Marks
The runoff for Shreveport City Marshal on December 6 pits incumbent Charlie Caldwell against the last candidate to enter the race, Crime Stopper coordinator Jim Taliaferro. A novice to Shreveport politics would see this as a white Republican against a black Democrat in a majority black constituency, and make an easy call for the incumbent. Seems to be an especially easy call, since Caldwell led the first primary with 38% of the votes from the five candidates in the race.
Other candidates who didn’t make the runoff include Joey Hester, a white Republican, with 22%; Don “D.D.” Otis, a black Democrat, with 15%; and Anthony “A.J.” Johnson, a black Democrat, with 5%. Voter turnout was 43.5%, a somewhat anemic number. But the more anemic number may be the turnout in December. The only serious items remaining are the senate race of Mary Landrieu against Bill Cassidy and a few less publicized district runoffs in the city. Among them are city council and school board races.
The amazing thing to many voters and those who scrutinize politics is that Taliaferro really did make the runoff, after he began campaigning only a month and a half before the primary. Other candidates had been out for over a year telling voters about Caldwell’s dirty deeds and seeking support to unseat the incumbent. At this time, all candidates who didn’t make the runoff have pledged support to Taliaferro, clearly a fact that they recognize the only way to improve the marshal’s office is to change leadership. Now the issue remains how to communicate this need to voters.
Most Shreveport citizens have little or no connection to the city marshal or city court unless they are in court for traffic tickets, property issues, on business contracts that require city court or the services of the marshal. However, city court has become the hot spot for Marshal Caldwell to make department spending money and creates revenue for office toys. Tracking Caldwell’s “discretionary” money and toys seems to be one of the issues voters will hear more about very soon.
Caldwell is well known among those who has run afoul of city law and appear in court, because Caldwell and his deputies enjoy lording powers over most who find themselves “in his court.” Caldwell treats many with outstanding warrants, regardless of the reason for missing a court date, as sources of income to be collected. His warrant service brigade often man their riot gear to serve warrants strictly as show of force.
Caldwell’s attitude in court has been called foul by ministers who bring members of their church to court to “get right with the system.” Caldwell standards in city court often vacillate depending on his personal feelings on any given day. As elections approach, we expect his “friendly side” to be the order seen in city court. Caldwell learned very little from his traffic stop by the Louisiana State Police.
Voters are entitled to be participants in the democratic process prior to elections. Caldwell is assuming the role of “Anointed” marshal, quite presumptive of the 38% vote he received. Regardless of who is running, candidates owe voters an open discussion with real questions and “Transparency” of information. Is the Charlie Caldwell we are viewing a shadow candidate who will remain a shadow marshal if he is reelected? Will those who support the “Anointed” perpetrate a city marshal’s office that is unresponsive to citizens? Will the marshal require a court appearance to determine how and where he failed citizens while in office?
I believe when the going gets tough, questions should be tougher for candidates. And, the best and most qualified candidate will stand and deliver. Right now our problem is a complete lack of will by Marshal Caldwell, and too many citizens know there are difficult matters that the marshal’s office should address. When there is NO will of the marshal to be responsive to voters, there will be no delivery of the necessary information that voters deserve. Good people find it difficult to vote for or support a candidate when they refuse to participate in the election process and provide the public information. If Caldwell continues to refuse to participate at open events that require discussion about issues the public has one more reason to vote him out of office.
Public Records Requests (PRR) that were filed with the marshal’s office on Monday have received a response and are being examined. Monday there will be a report on what the marshal offered in the way of responses. If Marshal Caldwell holds true to past performances, less than complete information will be supplied to the public. All Caldwell has done in the past is cost public money unnecessarily because he doesn’t want taxpayers to know how he uses public funds and the real cost to citizens he really represents. [PRR#1] [PRR#2]